Recently in Art Category


Come join me and James at ABC No Rio's benefit on May 3rd at Allegra LaViola on the Lower East Side. There will be wine, beer, food, a great silent art auction, and guest DJs including Anna Kustera, Doug McClemont, and Kembra Pfahler.

Tickets start at $50.

James and I are on the benefit committee for this amazing collectively-run center for art and activism founded in 1980 -- initially as a squat where they took over an abandoned building to put on an art show called Real Estate.


The old tenement building is going away to be replaced by a new building by architect Paul Castrucci based on sustainable design principles. Even if you can't make it to the benefit, any donation would be most appreciated!


Our dear friend John Blee, who lived in DUMBO in the 1980s, is having a show this weekend in the gorgeous apartment (with incredible views) of Norma Jean Markus.

Event Details

Reception: March 12, 4 - 7 pm and March 13, 1 - 4 pm.

Location: 70 Washington Street #12G, DUMBO, Brooklyn

To visit by appointment: Contact Norma Jean Markus at 917.446.7234.

Many visitors to our apartment have admired the two paintings we have of John's. The larger one was actually one of the first works of art in the apartment. This is your chance to see a range of John's work from the 1980s to present all at once.

Related blog posts: and Art Wrap.

Below is an essay by David Matlock on John's work.

John Blee in DUMBO

As the 100th anniversary of Kandinsky' s breakthrough approaches, it is fair to ask: what
has been achieved? Are abstract paintings today repeating what has already been said--
and with each repetition, fading in strength? Or do they have something new to say, both
from a technical standpoint and in terms of meaning?

At the beginning, abstraction exploded. Kandinsky himself tried to consolidate a more
controlled language and connoisseurs still argue about his degree of success. When the
Abstract Expressionists adopted the language on a larger scale, canvases exploded again
in shamanic frenzy. Success was hit or miss, all too dependent on possession.

John Blee' s first mature paintings, dating from the early 1970s, were also shamanic,
painted on the floor, and dependent on force and a possessed dancing. In a career of 40
years, the man has achieved total control over paint and, more importantly, now owns
his meditative inscape. He owns the land that earlier painters had to burst into by force.
His paintings are deliberate acts of self-intoxication. (It is worth noting, that although he
came of age in the 1960s, he has always disdained the use of recreational drugs.) The
Hindu and Buddhist art he experienced as a child and adolescent in India were formative;
as was the medieval sculpture in the caves of Ajanta and Ellora; and the work of Indian
modernists in the National Museum. Blee responds to Asian art as an insider--someone
who was shaped by the culture before he received his American inheritance.

The paintings on display are easy to enjoy but difficult to understand. From a technical
standpoint, the rendering of space is unique. There is nothing arbitrary or " atmospheric"
about the backgrounds--they are architectonic--that is, they create a definite space in
which " painterly event" unfolds. It is easy to take pleasure in the paint--casual admirers
often remark, " What a painterly painter! What a colorist!" without suspecting the hidden
narrative. I strongly suspect the hieratic " Sphinx" (2009) is one of Blee' s dogs, posing
nobly on the grass--the humorous title a reference to the difficulty of knowing what the
animal is really thinking. These paintings are truthful because they begin from within
and encompass the outside world in an ecstatic veil of paint. Earlier abstract painters
discovered a new continent; John Blee is traveling inland and is providing a faithful
record of what he finds.

John Blee studied with Helen Frankenthaler, Robert Moskowitz, and Robert Motherwell.
His paintings have been shown in Paris, Moscow, Boston, Washington DC, and New
York City (including the Andre Emmerich Gallery). His work is in the Museum of
Modern Art and the Los Angeles County Museum.
He currently living in Washington DC.

- David Matlock


James has the full details on his blog, but I wanted to make sure my readers knew about this too. We'll be there on Sunday.


Sunday December 19, 2010, 1:00 PM

GATHER on the Metropolitan Museum steps Fifth Ave. & 82nd Street

Then MARCH to the Cooper-Hewitt/Smithsonian FIFTH Ave. & 91st Street

Wear your free expression best and be part of the message.

Art+ is a New York City-based art action group - fighting censorship and homophobia

Over breakfast I mentioned these two news items today, and James suggested the connection.


Jack Levine, Welcome Home, 1946, via his obituary in the New York Times

It shows an armchair general being honored at an expensive restaurant, a wad of food in one cheek. On his right sits a bored socialite. Two decrepit businessmen in tuxedos make up the rest of the party. The central figure, Mr. Levine said, was "the big slob who is vice president of the Second National Bank and the president of the Chamber of Commerce, only now he's been in the Army."

When "Welcome Home" was included in an exhibition of American culture in Moscow in 1959, the chairman of the House Committee on Un-American Activities mounted a campaign to have it removed. President Dwight D. Eisenhower said, "It looks more like a lampoon than art, as far as I am concerned," but refused to intervene.

The uproar made Mr. Levine a star. He later told an interviewer, "You get denounced by the president of the United States, you've hit the top."

Fired Afghanistan Commander Named to JetBlue Board

Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who was fired by President Barack Obama after making insulting comments about top administration officials, was named Tuesday to the JetBlue Airways Corp. board of directors.


Our friend Susan C. Dessel recently finished a residency at the ACSL (Art and Culture Studies Laboratory) in Yerevan, Armenia. While there she spotted this arch which made her think of our site ArtCat. Visit her blog for her adventures in Armenia.




James and I went by Momenta Art yesterday to preview the raffle and auction artworks available, and there are some great pieces available this year. I've put up images from their site of a few of the over 150 raffle artworks. It's one of our favorite organizations in the New York area, and we have some lovely pieces in our collection from their benefits.

Things kick off with a performance by Guy Richard Smit. Tickets are only $225. Please join me and James next Wednesday!

Did you catch the (textual) Allen Ginsberg reference near the beginning?

James and I re-watched the DVD for this tonight. Visit the composer's site for a synopsis. We both consider him one of the great geniuses of 20th century music, and think he should be much more famous.


Paddy Johnson says, "I am only human!" [via John W Beaman's photos on Facebook of #class Rant Night]

Given my lack of time for blogging, and knowing more people would see it and discuss it there, I shared my notes from my rant on the last night of #class with Art Fag City. Don't miss the comments.

Part of the point of #class was to propose solutions, not just whine, so here are my thoughts. As the number of culture critics and writers decline in the printed media, the online world is replacing them, but getting paid enough to write is a big problem, even for relatively well-known writers such as Paddy Johnson of Art Fag City. As the co-founder of Culture Pundits and Idiom, it's something I worry about quite often, and both were founded to find some support for good writing.

My proposal: arts organizations such as The Art Dealers Association of America and the New Art Dealers Alliance should use a portion of their membership dues to fund arts writing. I'm sure similar groups exist for theater and dance as well, but the area I know best is the visual arts. In the long run, they need people to write about art, including their artists and exhibitions, and if people are too broke or busy freelancing to do so, no one wins. For a fraction of the cost of attending even a single art fair, the pooled resources could make a big difference in the quality and quantity of art criticism. Heck, perhaps some of this money could even fund some good editors to work with bloggers and other writers who would like that assistance!

Implementation details, such as an advisory committee for handing out the money, can be discussed. I would strongly recommend against a big proposal process, as I think that takes away from the time writers could use for better purposes. Writers who are interested in being considered could fill out a simple web form with a link to some samples of their writing for a committee to consider. In the interest of smoothing cash flow for all parties involved, the awards could even be monthly payments rather than lump sums. PayPal works very nicely for that.

Related: Two Coats of Paint on art bloggers, legitimacy, and awards.


Pablo Picasso, The Charnel House, Paris, 1944-45. Oil and charcoal on canvas, 6' 6 5/8" × 8' 2 1/2" (199.8 × 250.1 cm). Mrs. Sam A. Lewisohn Bequest (by exchange), and Mrs. Marya Bernard Fund in memory of her husband Dr. Bernard Bernard, and anonymous funds. © 2010 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, via MoMA website

On Monday, James and I participated in a guerilla "Communist Tour" of the Museum of Modern Art led by artist Yevgeniy Fiks. The first paragraph of his project statement says:

For the past fifty years, the Museum of Modern Art has been separating artists from their politics and in so doing sanitizing the history of Modern Art. “Communist Tour of MoMA” connects the history of Modern Art to history of the 20th century Communist movement. The project is based on research conducted at the Museum of Modern Art archives in New York, focusing on Modern artists from the MoMA collection whose careers overlapped with the trajectory of the Communist Party.

Below are some highlights from the notes I took during his whirlwind talk in the permanent collection floors of the museum. C-Monster was also tweeting during the tour using the hashtag #commietour.

We began with Picasso, in front of the painting above. Picasso joined the French Communist Party in 1944. He thought of Charnel House as a political/war painting in the tradition of Goya. Over his lifetime he donated millions of francs to the party and participated actively through peace conferences as well as publications and petitions. He was refused a visa to visit the the United States in 1950 due to his communism. Picasso and Leger contributed drawings to a French brochure honoring the Rosenbergs after their execution.

Mark Rothko was a member of several communist-backed organizations, including the American League Against War and Fascism and the American Artists’ Congress. Like many others, he left the Congress, after the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact/Molotov–Ribbentrop_Pact of 1939.

Ad Reinhhardt contributed cartoons to communist publications such as "The New Masses" and "Soviet Russia Today" in the 1930s and 1940s. Some were published with his real name, some with a pseudonym, and some anonymously.

David Smith was a member of the party from the late 1930s until the end of World War II, and joined at a time when one had to belong to a study group to learn about Marxism before being admitted.

Jacob Lawrence taught at Camp Wo-Chi-Ca, was a cartoonist for "The New Masses," and signed a 1937 letter protesting against the potential banning of the Communist Party of the USA. While we were learning this, and standing near Lawrence's Migration Series (jointly owned by the Phillips Collection and MoMA), Yevgeniy was shocked to have a tourist come up and ask, "Are these primitives?"

Of course we all know about Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo's communism. The most interesting facts for them were: Rivera getting expelled from the Soviet Union during a 1927 visit for "anti-Soviet" politics, and Kahlo's remark that she was a better communist than Rivera was or ever would be. After her death, Kahlo's body lay in state at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City covered with a red flag bearing the hammer and sickle.

Stuart Davis is considered by historians to be the most serious Marxist in the history of the American cultural left. He led both the American Artists Union and the American Artists Congress at different times in the 1930s. The latter held the meeting announcing its formation at the Museum of Modern Art itself! He left the party in the late 30s after the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. [Note: see comment below from Davis's son.]

That seems like plenty for now even though there were many more, so I recommend talking to Yevgeniy at his #class presentation on March 12. Ask him about Matisse!

Update: James now has a post with some photos of the tour.


One of the reasons that has been so quiet lately is that I've been working on a few web projects including our new collection web site. The installation view above was taken by the lovely and talented Fette, and there are more images on our site from her.

This Saturday, February 27, at 6pm, James and I will be participating on a panel at Winkleman Gallery that we organized called "Collecting with your eye not your ears" as part of the William Powhida / Jennifer Dalton project #class. Please join us.

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